Monday, March 25, 2013

Great HSG News Round-up

Haiti Support Group News Round Up
21 March 2013


The 'Baby Doc' Duvalier case continues to be heard, albeit in his absence as he continues to claim ill health for a good roundup with background, read this piece in Other Worlds. the most significant feature is that victims are being heard in court for the first time, a huge step forward in bringing the ex-dictator to trial for crimes against humanity. The UN's independent expert on Human Rights in Haiti also added his voice to the call for the trial to go ahead, although Truth-Out points out that for justice to really be served, Duvalier should not be alone in the dock.

The UN, however, does not have much of a moral high ground to stand on after its disgraceful refusal to afford justice to the victims of the cholera epidemic it has inflicted on Haiti, as pointed out by former Prime Minister of Jamaica, PJ Patterson, whose comments are in stark contrast to the deafening wall of silence on the issue from the Haitian administration.
While the UN has kicked the issue of dealing with cholera into the long grass with an unfunded 10-year $2.2billion project, the epidemic is taking off again and a scandalous lack of resources for treatment means many more unnecessary deaths, as explained in this MSF report and this excellent piece in The Nation.

Illegal, often violent, forced evictions of IDP camp dwellers continue, with a new twist that those who dare to speak up are now facing arrest for their temerity.

Meanwhile, the continued delays in forming a constitutionally valid electoral council allow the Haitian government carry on with unelected agents of the President in charge of local authorities and causing a crisis of democracy, which, along with deteriorating rule of law, is even drawing condemnation from the UN security council, which has hitherto been supportive of the Martelly/Lamothe administration. The US embassy, meanwhile, has not been able to resist the temptation of yet again throwing its weight around in the electoral affairs of a sovereign nation.


In more depressing news, the UNDP 2012 Human Development Index report shows that Haiti dropped three places in the index compared to the previous year, from 158th to 161 (out of 186). Even the UK's Daily Mail has been moved to publish a lengthy article drawing attention to the lack of discernible improvements, which may be in part explained by the workings of aid policies, which once again fall under the spotlight, in particular those of Canada and the USA

Forbes magazine carried an interesting piece on a potential alternative sustainable development project for Haiti, so it is all the more of a shame that the 'international community' and donors continue to focus on the assembly/sweatshop model, the prime example being the 'Caracol Free Trade Zone', the impact of which is analysed by the excellent Grassroots Watch/Ayiti Kale Je.

The news is not all depressing, as Haitian grassroots peasant's associations continue to resist, seeing themselves as part of a broader movement across Latin America and the developing world, drawing not a little inspiration from the late Hugo Chavez, whose death has wide-ranging implications for Haiti, not least because the PetroCaribe deal represented a major source of funds for the Haitian government.

In another piece of all too rare good news, the tireless work of organisations such as KOFAVIV and the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) has led to a tightening of the laws on sexual violence, although much hard work still needs to be done to translate this into practice.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Things that happened

This year began:
::We celebrated Christmas and rang in the new year with friends and family in North Carolina. It was as wonderful and exhausting as whirlwind visits to the U.S. always are. 

These loquats grew:
::The loquat trees on the farm in Kenscoff, full of fruit by mid-January, have already been picked clean by kids and visitors. We used the fruit pictured here to make three gallons of vinegar.
This girl learned how to use a chainsaw:
::Up on the farm we've been milling downed trees that fell during last season's hurricanes. 

This house was (nearly) built:
 ::A tiny treehouse-esque cabin on the farm, designed by our friend JM while he was here in January, and built from those milled trees.

This house got broken into:
::Our one-room home on the farm... the window was forced open and possessions were stolen, resulting in an as of yet unresolved entanglement with the Haitian justice system.

This house remains our refuge from it all:
::After the break-in on the farm, our ti kay in Pétionville feels ever more like a sanctuary. We have a new and lovely roommate, and for the past month have also had a slew of additional house guests and visitors.

This stuff [not pictured] stopped working:
:: After he milled a tree that had a curse on it [a story for another day], everything of value that Ben owns has either been stolen (his laptop) or stopped working. His welder exploded; his Blackberry, iPod, and Fuji rangefinder all died; his Canon camera started acting up and his motorcycle gas tank rusted out. 

These feet went to the beach:
::We've managed to squeeze in three beach trips this year, including a snorkling jaunt off of the Côte des Arcadins (after which we happily spent a morning drifting at sea when our boat engine died).

This garden grew:
::Our garden in Pétionville is thriving after Ben designed a timed self-watering system that feeds from the tank on our roof. Until rainy season begins in earnest, it's a perfect solution for our busy lives.

This guy may go to trial:
::Murderer, torturer, embezzler and ex-dictator Jean Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier was court-ordered to testify in a series of hearings which will determine whether or not he faces charges of crimes against humanity. In these historic Thursday hearings, victims' testimonies are being heard for the first time.

This camp was violently evicted*:
::The forced eviction of people from displacement camps continues, with escalating violence. The  camp above was set on fire in the middle of the night, finally prompting the UN to speak up. (*Thanks to housing rights activist Mark Synder and Under Tents for this photo).

This disease continues to infect people:
::Claiming diplomatic immunity, the UN has shamefully refused to take responsibility for introducing cholera to Haiti. Meanwhile, mortality rates rise while much fanfare is being made over an un-funded $ 2.2 billion elimination plan. 

This cat is oblivious to it all:


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